MWJ Award 1948-1989: favourite authors

I am currently taking a break in my project to read the winners of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award in order to explore the repertoire of the authors I have discovered so far through this project. To make things easier for me, I am listing here the winners of the prize that I loved the most (the ones that made me want to read more by their authors). Unfortunately, a lot of the early prize winners are out of print, so I was not able to read them all.

I must say that overall, the prize has been a bit of a disappointment to me. It started very strong with Seishi Yokomizo and Ango Sakaguchi, and I thought that most of the winners would be classic mystery fiction. From the titles that I was able to read so far, the prize covers a wide range of sub-genres, from social mystery novels to hardboiled novels. What was disappointing is that several novels that are not mystery fiction won the prize. There are at least two works of SF, and several titles either won or were runner-ups in both the Mystery Writers of Japan Award and the Japan Adventure Fiction Association Prize (日本冒険小説協会大賞). Even though they can sometimes overlap, adventure and mystery are two different genres, and liking one does not mean that I like the other.

This being said, there were also a lot of excellent murder mysteries, and I have discovered a lot of authors that I would never have read otherwise. This is another thing that I find surprising, but judging from the lack of availability (either paper or digital), many authors do not seem to be widely read or known nowadays, even though they won a prestigious prize. I wish there were regular reprints of these titles… As a result, there are a lot of books that I was not able to read, but among the ones that I have read, these were my favourites:

#1 – 1948 – 本陣殺人事件 by Seishi Yokomizo (横溝正史)

The very first winner of the prize is also the first story in the Kosuke Kindaichi series. Similarly to what I did for the Kogoro Akechi series, I would like to plan a year when I immerse myself in the cases of Kosuke Kindaichi. There are so many titles in the series that it cannot be as simple as one book per month though. It’s probable that I will only start this project when I finish this ongoing MWJ Award project.

#2 – 1949 – 不連続殺人事件 by Ango Sakaguchi (坂口安吾)

I am reading an anthology of Japanese detective fiction called 日本探偵小説全集 and the tenth volume is dedicated to Ango Sakaguchi! I am still in the middle of the second volume, and I am progressing very slowly, so it will take a while before I get there, but at least it is all planned.

#9 – 1956 狐の鶏 by Jokichi Hikage (日影丈吉)

Reading other books by Jokichi Hikage is high on my list. I saw that several titles were available on Booklive, so I’ll start with them! I must say that while 狐の鶏 belongs to my favourite books overall, some of the short stories were quite difficult to read in terms of Japanese level (the ones set in the countryside, the other ones were easy). Hopefully, the other books won’t be too hard, but I’m ready to put in the effort anyway! I’m particularly interested in the mystery novels set in Taiwan (under Japanese rule).

#10 – 1957 顔 by Seicho Matsumoto (松本清張)

Seicho Matsumoto is obviously on the list of authors that I want to read more. He is also one of the rare authors on this list to get regular reprints, so reading Seicho Matsumoto will be a good opportunity to renew with physical books! I have been almost exclusively reading Japanese digital books lately, because the majority of the books on this list are out of print.

#13 -1960 黒い白鳥 by Tetsuya Ayukawa (鮎川哲也)

I wasn’t sure whether I should include Tetsuya Ayukawa on this list, because even though it’s hard to point out things that I disliked in 黒い白鳥, it also did not really made me want to continue the Chief Inspector Onitsura series (鬼貫警部). The author has written so many books, that I think I should try other titles, maybe stand alone novels.

#14 – 1961 人喰い by Saho Sasazawa (笹沢佐保)

Saho Sasazawa has written so many books, I don’t where to start. Even though 人喰い is not my favourite book among the prize winners, I am still very looking forward to reading other books by this author. I’ll certainly pick a series among the ones available and stick to it.

#16 – 1963 影の告発 by Takao Tsuchiya (土屋隆夫)

影の告発 is part of the Chigusa series (千草検事), and it also belongs to my favourite titles among the prize winners. I wanted to read the whole Chigusa series, but the last two novels were unfortunately not available digitally (and out of print). The ones I read are:

  • 影の告発 1963
  • 赤の組曲 1966
  • 針の誘い 1970

Even though Takao Tsuchiya has written many other novels, the three listed above are the only ones available. So I guess that my exploration of this author’s repertoire stops here for now.

#17 – 1964 夜の終る時 by Shoji Yuki (結城昌治)

Two books won the prize in 1964, 夜の終る時 is a police procedural collection of short stories that belongs to my favourite among the prize winners. The other one is a hardboiled novel that I had a hard time going through, so not included here.

Shoji Yuki is one of the authors of the list that I wanted to read the most. I decided to go for his Sergeant Gohara series (郷原部長刑事) and read the three available novels:

  • ひげのある男たち 1959
  • 長い長い眠り 1960
  • 仲のいい死体 1961

I will read other novels by this author for sure. Thankfully, there are a lot of titles available on Booklive!

#26 – 1973 蒸発 by Shizuko Natsuki (夏樹静子)

I loved 蒸発 and immediately wanted to read Shizuko Natsuki’s most famous novel:

  • Wの悲劇 1982

While I did enjoy it overall, I also have mixed feelings about it and ended up liking it less than the prize winner. There is no doubt that I’ll explore Shizuko Natsuki’s works further, but it is not a priority.

#34 – 1981 終着駅殺人事件 by Kyotaro Nishimura (西村京太郎)

I absolutely loved Nishimura’s novel for its fast-paced, easy to read and engrossing crime mystery. He has written a lot of mystery novels linked to train lines and train stations. I already read another one from this series, and plan on picking one novel from time to time.

  • 寝台特急殺人事件 1978

#39 – 1986 背いて故郷 by Tatsuo Shimizu (志水辰夫)

Two books won the prize in 1986. 背いて故郷 is one of the rare hardboiled novels that I enjoyed reading, and I am therefore inclined to read other novels by Tatsuo Shimizu. I’ll probably start with 行きずりの街, which is the author’s most famous novel and ranked 1st in このミステリーがすごい!.

#39 – チョコレートゲーム by Futari Okajima (岡嶋二人)

The second winner of 1986 is also one of my favourites. Futari Okajima is an authors duo, and I have read several of their books now. I can say that I enjoy their first novels (about race horsing) much more than the later ones or the ones that tackle other topics than horse racing (like computer science).

  • 焦茶色のパステル 1982
  • 七年目の脅迫状 1983 (currently reading)
  • あした天気にしておくれ 1983
  • 解決まではあと6人 1985
  • 99%の誘拐 1988

Given that I have already read the horse racing trilogy (the first three books of the list) and that I liked the others less, I will certainly stop here for now, but I will probably go back to Futari Okajima one of these days.

#30 – 1987 北斎殺人事件 by Katsuhiko Takahashi (高橋克彦)

By far the most difficult book I have read so far (among the prize winners). I am not really looking forward to bury myself in another ukiyo-e mystery, but 北斎殺人事件 belongs to a trilogy, and I feel committed to it now that I have already read the first two novels:

  • 写楽殺人事件 1983
  • 北斎殺人事件 1986

The last novel is 広重殺人事件 published in 1989. I don’t know when I’ll find the courage to start it.

#41 – 1988 絆 by Kenji Kosugi (小杉健治)

As a fan of legal thrillers, I really enjoyed 絆 and plan on reading other books by Kenji Kosugi. I will probably stick with the author’s legal thrillers (there are many!). I also read another non legal thriller but enjoyed it less than the prize winner:

  • 父からの手紙 2003

Looking at the Wikipedia page, it looks like the author has several recurring characters (mostly lawyers), but the books do not belong to separated series. I wish I could read them in chronological order, but it looks like they won’t all be available, so I’ll just pick the ones I can buy. Kenji Kosugi’s historical novels seem to get more reprint than his legal thrillers.

#42 – 1989 伝説なき地 by Yoichi Funado (船戸与一)

I was complaining that several adventure novels won the Mystery prize, and 伝説なき地 is one of them. But… it’s also one of my favourite novels read in Japanese, not just for the prize. There are three novels set in South America (including 伝説なき地), and I want to read the other two, as well as other books by this author. The only thing that holds me back is that the novels are all very long, so I’ll have to find a good moment to start one.

I think that I will be busy reading these authors for the upcoming month, or maybe the whole year! Once I read at least two or three titles for each author, I will move on to the 90s. I will update this list with the books I read.